Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners April 14, 2022

With the upcoming Easter and Passover holidays, we are publishing this week’s Bulletin one day earlier than usual. We will resume the regular schedule with next week’s issue, which will be sent on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all who celebrate!

Free “National Park Access Pass”

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

The National Park Service now offers the "National Park Access Pass" as part of their America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series. This lifetime pass is available at no cost to any United States citizen or permanent resident who has a medically diagnosed, permanent disability that severely limits one or more of their major life activities. With the pass, visitors can go to more than 2,000 recreation sites across the country, and get a discount on Expanded Amenity Fees, such as boat launching, camping, guided tours, and swimming. To obtain the Access Pass you may apply in person at specific federal recreation sites or online. You will need a copy of your ID and documentation of permanent disability. If applying on behalf of someone else, the ID must be in that person's name. And, although the pass is free, a $10 processing fee must be paid at the time of application. Applications are generally processed within five business days of receipt, and a pass with the pass owner's name pre-printed on it will be mailed to the applicant. For more information, you may check out the National Park Access Pass page on the National Park Service website, here. If you are interested in applying for a “National Park Access Pass,” you may apply online, here. To apply in person, go to any of the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands on the “Federal Recreation Areas Where Interagency Passes Are Issued” list, here.

Call for Nominations for Audio Description Project (ADP) Awards

The American Council of the Blind (ACB)’s Audio Description Project (ADP), “a wide-ranging promotion and production initiative, has issued a call for nominations for the Fourteenth Annual ADP Awards in 2022. ADP seeks to build advocacy on behalf of audio description; offer educational resources, guidelines, and a professional certification for audio describers; disseminate information on audio description; and encourage studies on the efficacy of audio description and its impact on literacy. The ADP awards recognize outstanding contributions in the field in nine categories of achievement in audio description, from performing arts, to museums, to public sector/government agencies, to careers, and research and development, to name a few. The call for nominations concludes on May 5, 2022. Winners will be announced during the ACB Conference and Convention in July 2022. For more information about the awards, read ACB's Audio Description Project AD Awards Nominations. To submit a nomination online go to 2022 Audio Description Project Awards.

Alternative Text is Helping to Make the Internet Accessible

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Alternative text, alt text for short, is helping to make the internet more accessible for everyone, especially people who are blind or have low vision. Alt text, when available, can be detected and either read aloud or translated into braille to convey visual content using screen readers and other assistive technology. It is essential for a quality online experience for users who require assistive technology. “But it is not always available, or even helpful.” Haben Girma, a lawyer and disability rights advocate, whose work was cited in the March 11, 2022 Bulletin, noted that words like "’image,’ ‘jpg’ or graphics’” frequently are used and “’That doesn’t tell me anything.’” With an increasingly “image-saturated world,” people with vision loss can have difficulty fully experiencing the web. Many social media platforms have features where users can add alt text descriptions manually to their posts. These options, however, are not well known and are “mystifying to many.” Some company websites autogenerate alt text using artificial intelligence (AI), although in many cases the text is incomplete or lacking in quality. In part due to this “challenging landscape,” people with vision impairment, disability rights advocates, and technology professionals are devising ways to expand use and improve “the quality of alt text.” Companies such as Scribely and CloudSight seek to make alt text more accurate and widely available, using both AI and human review. Individual “Digitally savvy social media users” have also come up with pointers, such as how to craft alt text and to direct followers to useful resources. However, some disability rights advocates say that while AI alt text is improving, it still often misses the mark, especially when describing photos of multiple people or important moments. Most people do agree on “one point: that the presence of alt text is an important step toward making the internet more accessible.” It is key to expand the use of alt text so that everyone can enjoy online content, regardless of their sight. For more information, read The New York Times article, "The Hidden Image Descriptions Making the Internet Accessible".

New Option for Free Accessible Medication Labels

Based on feedback from patients and partners, Accessible Pharmacy Services has added new labeling options for users of their service who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision. The latest feature, WayTag Audio Labels from the company WayAround, can be placed on prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements filled through Accessible Pharmacy. These labels will include the name of the medication, directions, important dates, and more. Patients can also still label their medications with other free options, including text labels in English and Spanish, large fonts, Grade 1 or Contracted Braille labels, or ScripTalk Audio Labels. To learn more, go to the Way Tags page on the Accessible Pharmacy Services website, here.

“Secure Your Financial Future: A Toolkit for People with Disabilities”

Recognizing that April is Financial Literacy Month, the United States Department of Labor Office of Disability Programs (ODEP) has announced the development of the “Secure Your Financial Future” toolkit, with guidance for people with disabilities who are “seeking or maintaining employment and economic stability.”  As Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Taryn M. Williams explained: “’We all need clear information to secure our financial wellbeing, especially in light of the challenges of the past two years.’” The tool kit provides pointers on how to achieve financial well-being, based on where an individual is on their employment path, from preparing for a job, to maintaining a position, changing or losing a job, or retiring. It includes tools and resources to meet financial goals. To learn more about the kit or to download its content, visit the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) webpage: Secure Your Financial Future: A Toolkit for Individuals with Disabilities. For additional details about the kit and Financial Literacy Month, read the ODEP News Brief piece on Financial Literacy Month.

Celebrating Blind Poets During National Poetry Month

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

April is National Poetry Month, a time to recognize the important role poets and poetry play in our culture. National Poetry Month has become the largest literary celebration globally, with tens of millions of people celebrating annually. In recognition of this occasion, we are highlighting two talented poets who are visually impaired:

Stephen Kuusisto is a poet, author, professor, and advocate in the areas of diversity, disability, education, and public policy. He is also blind, having been born three months prematurely, causing "retinopathy of prematurity," where the eyes' retinas do not fully develop, as well as nystagmus and strabismus. Growing up with blindness was difficult during a time when information wasn't widely available regarding how to raise a blind child or instruct blind children in the classroom. Despite these challenges, through Kuusisto’s mother's advocacy, he was placed in a standard first-grade classroom, 30 years before people with disabilities were legally guaranteed civil rights in the United States. After graduating from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Kuuisto taught at the University of Iowa and began writing his memoir, “Planet of the Blind.” His first book's success jump-started his career, and his poems and essays were published in Harper's Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Partisan Review, and other periodicals. He has also published two memoirs and several poetry anthologies. For more information, check out his website, StephenKuusisto.Com.

Dave Steele, a famous, award-winning poet, author, public speaker, and singer, is also an advocate for the blind, having been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 2014 and losing his sight to the genetic eye disease. When he began to have significant vision loss, he struggled with unemployment, debt, and loss of independence, turning to social media for support. There he met people from all over the world who expressed their experiences with vision loss. One of those individuals, learning about Steele's singing ability, invited him to perform at an event for people living with retinitis pigmentosa and Usher Syndrome. This inspired him to write the song "Stand By Me RP," he conveyed his feelings about losing his sight. As his vision worsened, Steele began writing poetry, up to three poems a day, expressing his experiences and struggles living with blindness, which was therapeutic. After amassing a number of poems, he published his first book, “Stand By Me RP Volume 1” in February 2016, which quickly became the number one poetic release in several countries. Since then, Steele published volumes two and three of the “Stand By Me RP” trilogy, won multiple awards, and went on a three-week American Book Tour, traveling to major cities for book readings and signings, and giving keynote speeches. He has now written more than 700 poems, and says that his mission, through poetry, is “'to help those who are being isolated by a condition that strips us of our independence, let them know that they aren’t alone, and help educate loved ones on how we feel.'” For more information about Dave Steele, check out his website TheBlindPoet.Org.

Spring Cleaning Tips for People with Vision Loss

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

For many people, spring is the time to deep clean your home, wash and pack up winter clothing and bedding for storage, and take out warmer weather wear. Completing these tasks when you have low vision can sometimes be daunting. Here are tips and tricks to accomplish spring cleaning with limited vision:
Before cleaning, gather your supplies, such as cleaning agents and rags or paper towels.
If making your own cleaning agents instead of using commercial products, here are two easy recipes:
For an all-purpose cleaner, use one part water, one part white vinegar, a half teaspoon of liquid dish soap, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil.*
For a window, glass, and mirror cleaner, use one part white vinegar, ten parts water, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil.*
Both cleaners are best stored in plastic or glass spray bottles.
Some non-visual cleaning techniques can make the tasks much easier:
When cleaning windows, glass, and mirrors, spray the cleaning agent directly onto your cleaning cloth to avoid liquid running down the glass surface. It also ensures that you don't leave any cleaner on the glass.
When wiping down glass surfaces, use a Z pattern starting in the upper left-hand corner and working across to the right corner.
To clean non-glass surfaces, use a similar process, spraying the cloth directly, and use a two-handed technique to clean. One hand can inspect the area you're cleaning, with the other wiping down the area. For more details and spring cleaning tips, read the Vision Aware article, “Spring Cleaning with Low Vision.”

*A Safety Tip for Households with Animals: Beware of Many Essential Oils
: When using essential oils, please be aware that many are toxic to animals, even in small quantities. Please avoid using the following essential oils if you have working animals or pets in your home: citrus oil, clove oil, eucalyptus oil, melaleuca oil (tea tree oil), pennyroyal oil, pine oil, sweet birch oil, oil of wintergreen, ylang-ylang oil, or liquid potpourri. For more information about essential oils and animals, read The Pet Friendly House article, “Essential Oils and Dogs & Cats: Which Essential Oils Are Toxic to Pets?”

A Star is Born: Young TV Actor Depicts Character Who, Like Him, Has a Vision Impairment

Three-year-old Johnny Kincaid plays toddler Jack Damon on the popular NBC-TV series This is Us. The character Jack Damon is visually impaired, as is Johnny Kincaid, who made his acting debut in this role. Johnny has albinism, according to the Instagram page he shares with his mother. Although albinism is a different condition* than the one Jack has on the show, Marisol Kincaid, his Mom, noted that “she was excited about the opportunity Johnny has to represent the low vision community.” The young actor’s co-stars have given him glowing reviews, as reported in Glamour. To read more about Johnny Kincaid, check out the CINEMA BLEND article: This Is Us Cast Gushes Over 3-Year-Old Jack Jr. Actor: 'He's Going To Win An Emmy'. To watch This Is Us for free, it is available on Tuesdays on local NBC-TV stations as it airs or online by downloading the NBC app or Peacock.
*The character Jack Damon’s eye condition is retinopathy of prematurity, according to This Is Us viewers and Hidden Remote in response to the question: "Is baby Jack on This is Us Blind?"

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Correction: In last week’s Bulletin, the article about the Guide Dogs for the Blind Camp GDB, the correct email address to contact Jane Flower, MSG, Youth Outreach Specialist, for more information is [email protected]. All other information provided was correct and we apologize for this error.